OSU#039;s Conley resigns

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 2, 2004

COLUMBUS - Ohio State recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Bill Conley surprised many on Thursday when he announced he was resigning immediately to pursue other career opportunities.

''At first I thought it was a bad April Fool's joke,'' tight end Ryan Hamby said. ''I thought I was going to be 40 years old and he'd still be around here.''

Conley has spent the last 17 years in charge of Ohio State's recruiting. He has been credited with bringing in dozens of players who were All-Big Ten, All-American or went on to the NFL.

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Conley will remain with the staff as a volunteer through the end of spring practice. The Buckeyes began spring workouts on Thursday.

Coach Jim Tressel said he found out about Conley's sudden decision on Wednesday. Asked if there was a rift between he and Conley, he said, ''Heavens no!''

''We're going to miss him like crazy,'' Tressel added.

Conley told the players about his decision after they completed their first workout.

''This is the greatest experience I've ever had,'' Conley later told reporters, referring to his years as a coach. ''The toughest part of this is leaving the players.''

The 53-year-old Conley, a former walk-on football player at Ohio State under Woody Hayes, said he had made no decisions on what he would do next. Asked if it might be a job out of football coaching, he said, ''Possibly.''

''In life, certain times you make changes,'' he said. ''There are times when you feel it's right to do something. I thought this was the right time.''

Conley won two letters as an offensive guard at Ohio State before graduating in 1972. He was a successful high school coach with stops at London, Groveport and Middletown before joining Earle Bruce's staff as linebackers coach in 1984.

He left following the 1987 season when Bruce was fired, becoming the head coach at Dublin Coffman High School, then returned to Ohio State in 1991 as recruiting coordinator under John Cooper. He also coached defensive ends until 1997, when he took over responsibility for tight ends.

''It's something he's been working on and wrestling with for a few weeks,'' Tressel said. ''Sometimes you reach a point where there are certain options available to you and you have to decide if you take them or press on. It's tough on us because he's outstanding at what he does. And he bleeds scarlet and gray and he loves the kids.''

Tressel said he would not hire a replacement until later in the spring.